Silver Hair Sins by Saumick Pal: Book Review

Title: Silver Hair Sins

Author: Saumick Pal

Genre: Science Fiction, Visual Fiction

Silver Hair Sins is a futuristic story, set two centuries later where the world has a different politico-religious structure and the society is controlled by AI (Artificial Intelligence). A large part of the story is narrated through photographs.

The story is told through the family of Mary, Azad and Aasma and how life unfolds for them in a world where manipulation is rife but disguised.

The Book

Silver Hair Sins uses a handful of characters to make a sweeping judgement of humanity and religion two centuries down the line. When you are engrossed in the story, the first thing is relief that mankind has continued to flourish and reinvent itself. It has been able to circumvent the challenges thrown by the deeply divisive politics and religion that the world seems to be moving towards.

What works well

Silver Hair Sins is visual fiction which means that the narrative runs on parallel tracks of story through the written word and the story through photographs. While books include photographs and illustrations, the photos in Silver Hair Sins are ‘cinematic’, highly attractive and designed to hold the reader’s interest.

The issues raised in the book are very pertinent and an extrapolation of the religious, political and the societal issues that are present in the society today. It is interesting how the writer has created a scenario where these factors tip out of control so that the world order needs to be changed in order for humanity to survive.

The title, Silver Hair Sins, is quite intriguing and as I read on, seemed very apt. The concept of hair turning silver when one sins, either in deed or in thought can be frightening as also the world order where black haired men and women are considered superior to the ‘silvered’ ones.

The plot of the story is good and the twist at the end is chilling and satisfying to the reader for having reached the end.

The issues of dominance and subjugation, of patriarchy subverting women empowerment yet again, of a Big Brother kind of surveillance seem very right to take up. There is also the way events are misrepresented by state or a higher power, like the deaths of Akbar and Cadet Meera to manipulate the public consciousness that rings a bell.

The cover art is very good and apt for the theme of the book.

What does not work so well

The photographs which are an asset to the story sometimes break up the flow for the reader. I had to pause at every page to look at the picture, read the description and connect the words and this visual world. While it is true that the photographs have taken the storytelling to a completely new level, sometimes it was hard for me to understand the relevance of some of them. Also the description accompanying the photos is on a very different level from the narrative.

The characters seem cardboard cutouts of people. Their motivations, even from minute to minute are incomprehensible and at loggerheads. The dialogue needs work; most characters repeat their words as if they are only thinking aloud.

The plot is good but the way the twists are presented leave the reader confused. Most explanations come a little later after the events themselves, which is how suspense is built but the events themselves are not explained well at all. So, there were many places that I had a disconnect with the story.

There are a few inconsistencies in the story that felt jarring. Cadet Meera’s suicide mission even though she was contemplating an army career only a few hours ago or suicide by throwing themselves in front of a hovercraft sound a little out of place. Thankfully, these are little issues that do not have a bearing on the flow of the main story.

The colour Silver is used brilliantly for marking the sinners from the non sinners. However, the use of the colour nearly everywhere strips it of its negative connotation and creates confusion. Rain is mentioned as silver, so is moonlight while both these natural elements are not really threatening. Also, Silver is used extensively by state machinery and in state sponsored propaganda. People are afraid to have silver hair but proud to be have the implant of the silver chip. The colour silver treads grey territory quite often (pun intended).

Verdict

Read Silver Hair Sins for a different kind of storytelling, through words and photographs. It’s an interesting peek into a chilling future that mankind could be hurtling towards.

I got a copy of this book for an honest and unbiased review. This review is written as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program.

Murder in the Palace and Other Stories by Priya Bajpai: Book Review

Title: Murder in the Palace and Other Stories

Author: Priya U Bajpai

Genre: Short Stories

Murder in the Palace and Other Stories is a delightful collection of stories where world building and exquisite language go hand in hand.

Review

The book has twelve stories, short, sweet and tangy. Starting from a contemporary detective story, the book moves on to other genres that explore time travel, sci fi, romance, feminism among others with a wide variety of settings. There is a story for everyone here.

The book starts with the eponymous story, Murder in the Palace and the most striking detail of the story is the detective herself. It seems a complex whodunit but the answers are found surprisingly fast and through deduction. I liked the way the story gets straight to the point from the first paragraph itself and yet there is no glossing over the backstory.

Geisha is expectedly set in Japan. It is such a lovely and poignant story. I was transported to a world of beauty, grace, elegance and love that is expressed in subtle ways.

Horrific Holocaust is set in Germany and brings into focus the Holocaust through teenage angst.

I’m II is science fiction that is chilling and is a little too real for comfort. The narrative is captivating.

The Mysterious Globe is almost magical, but it teases and seems unfinished.

I liked the Killer very much. It has an interesting twist in the tale and was so different from the stories I had read till that point.

Mia of Maya is wondrous. The narrator here is from the Mayan civilization and it is not the mere life but the wiping out of an entire people that the story addresses.

Dazzled and Banon’s Conundrum are also very striking stories, with completely unexpected endings.

Neil’s Shoe closes this collection and I was left with an other-worldly feeling, not just from this story but from the heady mix that I had just finished.

What works well

Priya has a very literary writing style and a way with world building that is very elaborate and yet succinct. All through the book, I was constantly struck by how versatile she is, through the choice of the storylines.

Each story is a different world and an experience in itself. I did not read the stories in one go. I picked them at random, savouring them.

The cover art of the book is gorgeous and is a definite plus for the book.

About the Author

Priya U Bajpai is a short story author and poet. She has also been published in mainstream newspapers. This literature scholar is a versatile story-teller. She is adept at writing fast-paced and layered tales across genres. This extremely modest writer lets her craft do the talking.

Verdict

This eclectic mix of stories show case a wide range of settings and emotions. Pick this collection if you like vivid descriptions and a literary writing style.

Download the book here. It is free for a limited period.